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We may be heading for religious war – Pastors react to US verdict on religious persecution in Nigeria

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King Mohammed VI and President Muhammdu Buhari

Pastors, Solomon Olakunmi Ajao of the Christ Apostolic Church, Warrior for Christ Mission, Railway crossing Fagba, Lagos and Kunle Adebambo of the Go Yee Assembly Oluyole Estate Ibadan, have warned that if care is not taken, Nigeria could be heading to a religious war.

The men of God who spoke in a chat with Business Hallmark’s Sesan Laoye, were reacting to a recent report by the United States government which highlighted the persecution of Christians in Nigeria, particularly in the Northern part of the country.

According to them, the report painted the right picture of what Christians are going through in the country.

In his remark Ajao, said “the US is right because Christians have been facing different form of persecutions in the northern parts of Nigeria”

He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sit up and “realise that we have to be very careful so that the whole process would not lead to religious war.”

He also blamed the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for not doing enough to protect the interest of Christians.

“I think the Christian Association of Nigeria is not doing enough. While top Christian leaders who have voice in government are not doing anything to help Christianity but are busy running after wealth. Christians in Nigeria should now rise up to protect their interests.

“You can imagine that all top positions in government are held by Hausa/Fulani Muslims, especially top security positions. The US is sounding the warning to avert what could lead to serious crisis that would affect the world”

Similarly, Pastor Adebambo said Christian persecutions in the north has been there for a long time but never degenerated to the present level.

He recalled how a very close friend of his fell victim of religious violence in the region which took his life long before Boko Haram emerged on the scene.

According to him, President Buhari should do something about it before it gets out of hand.

“President Buhari should not ignore US warning because their intelligence reports have always been without bias and we have to be very careful to avert danger which other countries especially US have seen coming and which we have not in anyway taken notice of or may we don’t care or pretending not to care,” he said.

He called for serious prayers that would liberate Christians from persecutions because “if we fold our arms the country could be islamised before we know it and if this should happen under our nose then we are done for.”

The US State Department had on Friday, in its latest report on religious freedom, issued a warning to Nigeria and two other countries over what it described as lack of religious freedom and persecution of minority groups.

The Donald Trump administration noted that Nigeria was a ‘country of particular concern,’ even as Sudan was removed from the blacklist of countries lacking religious freedom.

The report said minorities in Nigeria had reported discrimination, including limits on free expression and in obtaining government employment.

The State Department pointed to the lack of accountability in violent crackdowns on the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, a pro-Iran Shiite group, and the arrest of a Christian man for attempting to convert a Muslim girl.

The Department added Cuba, Nicaragua and Nigeria to a watchlist of countries that could face a full designation if they do not improve their records.

The United States had lifted “fast-changing Sudan” from a blacklist for religious freedom violations, even as it issued warnings to Nigeria, Cuba and Nicaragua.

Sudan was the only nation removed from the State Department’s annual list of “countries of particular concern,” which are subject to sanctions if they do not better protect religious liberty.

Civilian economist Abdalla Hamdok became Sudan’s prime minister in September, pledging national reconciliation after decades of military rule and conflict.

But Hamdok’s government is still waiting for a bigger prize from the United States — removal from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation that has severely impeded investment.

Nine countries remained on the blacklist, including Pakistan, which was designated in 2018 after years of US hesitation over concerns on the treatment of minorities, including through abuse of a blasphemy law, which can carry the death penalty.

Also on the list was China, which, according to rights groups and US officials, has incarcerated at least one million Uighurs and other Muslims; and US ally Saudi Arabia, which imposes the rigid Wahabi school of Islam.

The other countries on the list were Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

“No country, entity or individual should be able to persecute people of faith without accountability,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

“We have acted, and we will continue to do so,” he said, calling religious freedom a priority for President Donald Trump’s administration.

The State Department said that religious groups faced restrictions and harassment in both Cuba and Nicaragua, leftist-led nations that have come under growing pressure from Trump.

Russia and Comoros remained on the watchlist. Sudan as well as Uzbekistan, which was removed from the blacklist in 2018, were also on the watchlist.

The latest designations, notably, did not target India despite mounting concern from US lawmakers over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda, including a citizenship law that has prompted widespread protests over charges it marginalises Muslims.